Ubuntu – need to type `./` before executing a program in the current directory

bashcommand line

While executing a C program, a.out, using the Ubuntu terminal, why do I always need to type ./ before a.out, instead of just writing a.out? Is there solution for this?

Best Answer

When you type the name of a program such as a.out the system looks for the file in your PATH. On my system, PATH is set to


Yours is probably similar. To check, enter echo $PATH in a terminal.

The system looks through these directories in the order given and if it can't find the program produces a command not found error.

Prepending the command with ./ effectively says "forget about the PATH, I want you to look only in the current directory".

Similarly you can tell the system to look in only another specific location by prepending the command with a relative or absolute path such as:

../ means in the parent directory eg ../hello look for hello in the parent directory.

./Debug/hello : "look for hello in the Debug subdirectory of my current directory."

or /bin/ls : "look for ls in the directory /bin"

By default, the current directory is not in the path because it's considered a security risk. See Why is . not in the path by default? on Superuser for why.

It's possible to add the current directory to your PATH, but for the reasons given in the linked question, I would not recommend it.